Recently I wrote about spiritual gifts and using your gifts to serve the church. Today, I want to discuss a couple of issues with the whole spiritual gifts conversation.
Obviously, I do not mean that spiritual gifts are a problem, but if we are not careful we abuse the idea. Let me give you an example from my personal experience. Several years ago, I was part of the core team for a new church plant in my hometown. When considering the opportunity, I was told my main responsibilities would be assisting and teaching in the children’s ministry. There was just one problem: I did not feel specifically “called” to children’s ministry nor “gifted” in teaching. In fact, I almost backed out of working with the church altogether simply because I did not desire to do those things. Thankfully, advice from a more mature believer caused me to reconsider and I joined the team, serving in those areas I tried to avoid. I grew into it, and I found that I enjoyed teaching on Sunday mornings and helping those kids learn the Bible. And, the longer I served in that area, the more comfortable I became with teaching. While I still would not consider myself a particularly gifted teacher, I think the Lord gifted me to serve in that way to meet a need of the church.
The Lord is gracious to bless sinful believers with gifts that help build up his church and further his kingdom. However, because we are sinful, we may create problems for ourselves regarding our understanding of the Spirit’s gifting and that affects the way we serve. As I wrote in my last post, it is important to understand what the Bible says about spiritual gifts. To summarize: there is one church, made up of many members, who are blessed with a diversity of gifts for the purpose of building up the church. Read through the New Testament to see what it says about the church, gifts, and how the early Christians used their gifts to serve.
Static or Dynamic? Or Both?
Too often, we think of spiritual gifts as static talents that are bestowed upon us forever. We treat those lists that Paul gives us in the New Testament like an exhaustive menu, one that we can look at and figure out our one or two specialities. Unfortunately, that is not what Paul is doing, and that is not how we need to understand spiritual gifts. Gifts are not specialities. Gifts are a spiritual help, given by the Holy Spirit, to allows us to do things that our church needs done to accomplish its mission. If we think of them as specialties or talents, we give ourselves a reason not to serve in any other way. I am convinced these gifts often come for a season to enable us to work in ways that are normally a weakness. Whatever the case, we must never use “gifting” as a shield to avoid serving our church in a way we do not prefer.
The main problem I have with spiritual gift inventories is that they often present a focus that is too narrow. Spiritual gift inventories may be a helpful starting place if you simply have no idea how you are gifted. However, they can be abused. Spiritual gifts are different from talent. While one may be an inherently talented musician, gifts may not necessarily be “fixed.” Perhaps God equips certain people at certain times when a need arises. That is precisely what happened to me when teaching children at that church plant.
Just because you score highest on the gifts of teaching and prophecy, does not mean that you are not capable of doing anything else. Certainly, you should seek to serve the church with these gifts. But what if the church needs someone to visit members who are homebound or in the hospital? While some may encourage or show mercy more naturally than others, the Bible does not exempt those who do not score high in that from encouraging others.
This is especially true for evangelism. For a lot of us, evangelism is uncomfortable, awkward, and downright frightening. But then there are those who are obviously gifted in it. The fact remains, all believers are called to share the gospel. That means we do not get a free pass from evangelism just because we think we stink at it. Those who are gifted in evangelism should be training and involving others in their evangelism and those who are not gifted in it should work at it too. I have some close friends who go out to share the gospel almost every Saturday. Neither of them would say they are particularly gifted in evangelism, but I have seen them grow more comfortable, confident, and bold in seeking out opportunities to share the gospel with the lost around them.
Unwillingness to Serve
Unfortunately, it is easy for one to neglect serving on the claim of “not being gifted” in a particular area. Sometimes it is simply a case of not desiring or being willing to serve. I have been guilty of this attitude and I see others neglecting to serve. Claiming to lack a particular gift does not absolve responsibility to your church.
There must be humility and flexibility when it comes to gifts and serving the church. Yes, we are limited and no one possesses all the gifts. But in these times, it is important to remember that the Lord is not limited and he is able to equip the saints to do the work of the church. Because of this, we cannot always pick and choose where and how we will serve. Fortunately, we are not expected to do all the work of the church by ourselves. The Lord equips all members to serve in one way or another.
If there is a need in your church that must be met, and you are in a position to do so, then you can be confident that the Spirit will help you.